30 September 2009

Banned Books

It's Banned Books Week, a week to remind us to read books that have been banned from certain libraries because some people found them objectionable. Here is a short list of books that have been banned in recent years.

How many of the books listed have your read? What books on the list would you miss?

Me? Enough to know that I'm glad that these books were not censored everywhere. The Harry Potter Series, come on - I don't know how many times I've reread those books.

Another book, The Bridge to Terabithia, I read for the first time last year. To me, it was a story about finding the magic of friendship, even if it is with someone unexpected. And how powerful and healing that magic becomes when shared with those around you; friendship can carry you through the valleys of life as well as at the mountain peaks. The story delivered a very moving message that broke my heart; I couldn't keep from bawling.

Just because you don't agree with the message of a book, doesn't mean that you have the right to keep others from reading it. Everyone has the right to access of media and to decide for themselves how they feel about it. Nor should others deny you your right and choice.

I've encouraged my son to read The Bridge to Terabithia and I encourage everyone else too. And when you're done with that book, I encourage you to pick another from the list.

25 September 2009

How much longer?

That's the question that I keep asking myself lately.

When I started the my first novel, during last year's NaNoWriMo, the extent of my recent creative writing had been a few writing exercises, none of which I would show to anyone but the hubby.  So imagine just jumping in to write a novel with nothing but a basic outline, excitement and determination. Excitement and determination got me through the month of November (meeting the goal of  50k words in one month) and working to finish the story (total length of 125k words) in February. As for the outline, well that had fallen by the wayside in the first week.

Since then I've read some more on the craft of writing ... author blogs, Flogging the Quill, and portions of Story. With this new info in my head, I went back to the ol' computer to begin the revision process, envisioning a few months worth of work.

After getting started, all I have to say is "Yikes!" While excitement and determination got me to the end of the first draft, it didn't do much for a well crafted story. I've encountered truly cringe-worthy passages, painful I tell you. And too many craft issues to list. So now I'm working on improving the story so it makes sense, is realistic, has tension & engages the reader.

It's taking much longer than I expected. My original estimate of a few months has followed the same path of the original outline: out the window.

How much longer until I'm finished? I have no idea. Well, let's look at it -- there is family to tend to, the holidays coming up,  another NaNoWriMo this November and countless other things that are bound to crop up. But I am committed to finishing it.

So the answer I give myself: as long as it takes.

20 September 2009

Why Writing?

Recently an old friend mentioned that he didn't know that I was interested in writing. His comment got me to thinking about why I write and how I got started.

I'm not one of those folks that knew from the time they could form a letter that they wanted to be a writer. Sure, I had written for the junior high school newspaper, even published in the Bear Essential Newspaper for Kids. And in high school I wrote essays and papers that received top marks. But I'd never really considered a career as a writer. At that time, I wanted to be a professional musician, until I realized that I would struggle to attain the level of fame to live a certain lifestyle.

I considered other well-paying professions, like being a doctor (too much school) or a lawyer (too many of them). Next on the my list was engineer, schooling wouldn't be too long, not many of them, and lots of fields from which to chose. So on I went, pursuing a Materials Science & Engineering career - finishing was a graduate degree. Only to get a job at Intel doing very little engineering but managing portions of the supply chain, then overseeing quality and reliability of server systems.

All my jobs required writing -  research papers, patent evaluations, a thesis, status reports, change management, customer communications, corrective actions, best known methods. After a technical career that lasted eleven years, you could say that I was proficient at writing those types of documents. Of course, none of them fictional and all written more than eight years ago before I left the corporate world to stay home with my family.

Some time ago I realized I needed something challenging and stimulating to do. Not that keeping up with my family and all the management issues that it requires isn't challenging. It just wasn't stimulating. I toyed with other ideas for a while. It was listening to D. Gabaldon's podcasts and reading R. Lippi's blog that got me thinking about writing and it wasn't until last year that I got serious about writing during NaNoWriMo.

It was something I could do something for myself but would let me be home with the kids and could be squeezed into my life without much issue. So I worked from a book, Writing Fiction, that helped remind me how to write. After all it had been eight years since writing something technical and near eighteen years since writing anything creative. During nap times, during weekends that didn't have much going on, I went to my writing corner and worked on writing exercises.

What I didn't expect was that writing is fun, addictive even. Starting with a "what if ...,"  seeing where it goes, imagining what is going to happen next, working to make it believeable all exciting and fulfilling. And since I can't read the last page of the story since it isn't written (my normal MO when reading books), I have to keep writing to see how it ends. And now that I'm taking this writing course, I'm getting tools to work with and figure out my style of writing, which makes writing all the more engaging.

It helps that my husband and kids are encouraging, accepting without argument when I go to my office to write. Although, I suspect they would rather I go write than I get riled if I don't get my writing time in.

So, that's a long winded bit about my interest in writing. Will I become a published author? That's certainly a possibility I'm working towards. I'll think of that step after I've got something worth selling. Until then, I'll enjoy the challenge of sneaking in writing time and developing something new.

18 September 2009

Too Cool

Remember that I asked for and received an eARC from Lynn Viehl? In return I agreed to write up my thoughts on Shadowlight and post it on the interwebs. That done, I sent an email to Ms. Viehl informing her of my post.

Hold on, I'm getting to the cool part.

She posted an entry listing several links in which people had said something about her story. And my site was one of them.

How cool is that? A prolific author with books on best-selling lists actually put a link to my newbie blog on her blog!

I'll tell you how cool -- Too cool.

13 September 2009

More on the Lightning Strike and the Unrealistic

Someone asked if lightning struck. Thankfully it did, since that particular idea has become the idea used in this week's HtTS assignment, albeit with some tweeks.

"Tweeks?" you ask. I changed the unlikely ID theft guys from priests to something else. Don't ask my how or why my mind came up with priests, but it did. But can you imagine your local priest as an internet-savvy thief? I just couldn't see myself writing it despite having dreamt up the whole thing.

Although ... no one would expect that twist. Hmmm, maybe I should reconsider ... nah.

As for actual writing/editing - action has been minimal this week due to life stuff. But I did get through that difficult scene I mentioned last week. The meeting between those two characters is now totally different from what I had been working on. The new version flowed out of the ol' fingertips into the keyboard. I think it was the unrealistic part that was tripping me up. Will go back and reread for flow, fill in the gaps before moving on, but I'm pleased with how it worked out.

07 September 2009


I was listening to a Creative Screenwriting Podcast on my way to pick up the kids from school last week. Mike Judge, writer/director of the movie Extract, was the interviewee. And something he said struck a chord, so much so, that I had to write it in Evernote. Immediately.

I am paraphrasing what he said ...

It's ok to be unrealistic as long as it's believable.

Another “Duh!” moment.

I know, I know - this isn’t a new revelation. The book I use from time to time, Writing Fiction, says as much.

All good fiction, even some non-fiction, is built on this idea. Star Trek, Star Wars, Herland, Outlander, Lost, Alias, the daily news - hook their audiences with the unrealistic, at least with respect to our lives, and they are believable. But why did Mike Judge’s statement strike me as so important that I had to get the thought down in before I would forget it?

Maybe my own story, in the first pass revision stage, is suffering from not being believable. Currently, I’m mired in the main character’s first encounter with a person from the world in which she’ll have to live, a world that she’s never known. I’ve been stuck on this scene for over a week,  something is not right. And I haven't been able to work it out. Is her reaction believable? How ‘bout the other person’s counter-reaction? Or maybe there is something about the unrealistic aspect of the situation?

Something for me to think about.

05 September 2009

Letting Lightning Strike

This week’s assignment for my HtTS course is to help create lightning. Lightning = story ideas. I have seven days to get three strikes.

So like the diligent student that I am, I did what I was supposed to do - last week’s assignment then the bit of writing from this week. The rest of the assignment is to wait and see what happens - letting lightning strike as it will.

I’m not usually one to sit by and let things happen. If something needs to be done, I just do it. So imagine: two days after starting the assignment and I haven’t experienced lightning. I’m began to wonder, more like fret, what will, or won’t, happen. How do I complete the assignment if nothing is happening?

On Friday, I commented on a post over on GenReality, mentioning how antsy I am waiting for lightning. And nightsmusic, having taken the same course previously, reminded me that not all tools work for every person. But to go with it, not to worry and see what happens. (Which is what Holly said in the course material but I had promptly forgotten.)

One of those “duh” moments. Of course.

Being a parent requires trying things out, finding what works for the family, be it discipline, encouragement, managing it all. Parents receive lots of advice on what to do on all sorts of things - cry it out, family bed, time-out, spanking, not saying “No” to your child. Then there are the tons of books suggesting what one should or shouldn’t do - some seemingly contradicting each other. In the end, the parent has to pick and choose what to try before finding out what works. And, of course, not all things work for everyone. Each family, through lots of trial and error, develops and evolves as they need to, using what tools work and giving up those that stop working. Same goes for anything in life, like writing.

Since I’m so new to this writing gig, earnest efforts only since last November, and being an engineer by education and training, I’m keen to try new things, to see what works. It’s just that this assignment goes against my usual nature - let someone (my Muse) take control. (Don’t get me started on the Muse thing.)

So after reading nightsmusic’s comment, I relaxed and didn’t worry about it the rest of the day.

Saturday morning brings with it a small flash of something. Not a huge lightning bolt that streaks, crooked and bright, from the clouds down to the ground. But a nice flash of light in the clouds.

Looks like I just needed to get out of my own way and let nature take its course.